The Ron MacLean Phenomenon

TORONTO (July 19) — I can tell you, without equivocation, that you’ll never meet a nicer, more cordial and pleasant backstabber than Ron MacLean. The first three adjectives are mine; the latter, a non–stop, prodigious and largely inexplicable sentiment amid television viewers in our country that once threatened to boycott Hockey Night In Canada during a salary squabble between MacLean and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). This fall from grace is unlike anything in the modern history of sports media. In fact, it is nothing shy of a phenomenon.

There is, of course, no application of logic or reason to the scourge of social media, from which nearly all of the MacLean vitriol originates. Nothing in life is easier than firing darts at another person behind the veil of anonymity. Which is no–less virulent, in our society, than the recent COVID–19 pandemic. Ron has been pilloried, far and wide, for his apparent betrayal of Don Cherry on Nov. 20, 2019, when he disavowed the remarks made by Cherry, 24 hours earlier, about immigrants to Canada and their refusal to wear a poppy in observation of Remembrance Day. That Cherry uttered the now–infamous term “you people” while addressing his TV audience provided Rogers Communications an excuse to fire the national icon, thereby ending a nearly 40–year run for the most–watched seven minutes in the history of Canadian television. Coach’s Corner, the first–period intermission staple, ended on the spot. So, too, would have MacLean’s unparalleled career as host of Hockey Night… and just about anything else asked of him within the industry. It was no coincidence, for example, that Ron also anchored the annual National Hockey League Awards telecast, or was on the ice to emcee the closing ceremony after the final hockey game (Feb. 13, 1999) at Maple Leaf Gardens. He, too, is a national icon and would have disappeared from our TV screens without “apologizing” to viewers across the land for Cherry’s outburst the previous night. Rogers’ executives held a figurative gun to MacLean’s head: either repudiate Cherry or take a one–way stroll with the coach.

MacLean, wanting to continue providing for his family, made a heart–rending choice. It immediately ended his brother–like friendship with Cherry and, to this day, the unqualified adoration of hockey fans from coast to coast.

The difference, of course, between MacLean and the snot–rags that excoriate without fear of being identified is that Ron rendered his atonement on a telecast beamed from St. John’s to Victoria. Given Cherry’s gargantuan acclaim, he understood there would be fallout, personally and professionally. But, MacLean put his family first… and did so on live television in front of nearly three million viewers — far unlike those that cower behind Twitter handles. Nothing is quite so simple as taking out one’s anger and unfulfilling life amid the “protection” of social media.

MacLean, on Tuesday, made it known through a Tweet by John Shannon that he’ll be returning as host of Hockey Night this October… in discordance of a blog I wrote last week that suggested otherwise. The news actually warmed my heart; as I expressed in the blog, I’m hoping for Ron to go out on his terms, not anyone else’s. But, ask me if I trust the unconscionable boobs that sit atop the ivory tower at Rogers’ headquarters (or Bell Media, for that matter) and you’ll get a different answer. These money first moguls aren’t in the habit of warning employees about the bloodlettings that occur two or three times per year. You merely come to work, unsuspectingly, and are told to go home; occasionally, also, that your media outlet no longer exists. So, I’m hoping Ron was accurate. Kevin Bieksa, too. The person that told me of potential changes at Hockey Night has a long and distinguished tenure in Canadian media; a well–connected individual that every sports viewer in the land would instantly recognize.

After Shannon’s Tweet (from a charity golf event) that MacLean would be returning, Postmedia (Toronto Sun) put up a story, without a byline, that contradicted a “Toronto–based blogger” (thanks, guys, for the recognition of 23 years in radio 😛 ). I post the link, here, not because of that, but rather for the boorish comments at the bottom about MacLean; remarks that are sadly consistent with the 3½–year tirade against the long–time host of Saturday night hockey (there have been only four in my lifetime: Ward Cornell from 1959–71; Dave Hodge from 1971–86; MacLean from 1986–2014, then 2016–today; George Stroumboulopoulos from 2014–16). It is quite the exclusive company and no person has occupied the role even half as long as MacLean. Waiting in the wings, at some point, are David Amber and Jeff Marek, both of whom do exceptional work for Rogers Media.

MacLean has been offered numerous chances — including several by yours truly — to fire back at his unnamed detractors, but continues to take the high road and internalize the remarkable anguish he must feel each day. He once told me “mine is a story that will go to my grave; the dignity of too many people depends on it.” Of course, “dignity” is a word unfamiliar to those who rip MacLean (and others) anonymously. The social media warthogs aren’t sufficiently introspective to pause and recognize the harm their words engender. Teeing off namelessly is all that can make such people — for a few moments, anyway — feel good about themselves. So, it doesn’t register that they routinely subject Ron to the kind of venom and hostility reserved for a rapist or pedophile. In a world where everyone has a pulpit (however minute), there is no inclination toward perspective. Just outright stupidity.


47 comments on “The Ron MacLean Phenomenon

  1. I don’t know if Don Cherry is a racist for sure but his attitudes are definitely dated. It was time for him to leave several years before the incident but no one at HNIC had the stones to face the public backlash (the vocal minority).
    People no longer gathered around TVs at intermission to listen to coaches corner as they did in the 90s. It was stale, repetitive and completely out of touch. There was no critical analysis of the game, just the ramblings of an old man who had a good run but didn’t know it was time to leave. Unless you knew exactly the issue he was addressing, his comments made no sense.
    HNIC failed miserably but none the less, it was closing time for Don.

    1. And so goes the cancel culture. Talking out of your arse with zero reference points doesn’t make any sense either.

      Don Cherry was forced out by woke morons who want to cancel anything they don’t like or understand because they fear common sense and traditional values.

      It’s good to see a push back against that crap now can’t wait to see closing time for people like you!

  2. Don cherry was one of the most annoying people, just another old vvhite dude who loved to hear himself talk,couldn’t stand him,glad they kicked him off tv,dude was straight up sucked

    1. Not sure what planet you live on but your ideology from the left has divided Canada to a point that it is almost irreparable.

    2. Cherry was a great entertainer that had a great knowledge of hockey and is a true Canadian that said nothing wrong to upset anyone.

  3. McLean reminds me of Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, McLean only loves money his supposed Buddy Don Wes backstabbed , and you know how karma works , to a backstabber like Ron McLean deserves everything he got, for being greedy and disloyal to his friend Don Cherry

    1. Straight up dude.

      I was shocked when Ron didn’t take a stand for Mr. Cherry, the day he was let go.
      Don Cherry made Ron a house hold name. Wasn’t for Don Cherry, Ron be selling cars and refereeing Hockey games.
      I will always be a huge Hockey fan. And will always cheer for our Edmonton Oilers. When Mr. Cherry was on coaches corner it was very enjoyable, colourful & informative. Now I rarely if at all, watch the intermission and the hosts. No Don no fun. Go way back, and talk about Don Cherry’s grapevine coaches corner at 11pm nightly… In the 80’s. Missed!

    2. I fully agree and totally disagree with this blogger.

      You don’t sink a friend, or even a colleague just to save your job with a sick management that is forcing you to make a fool of yourself. I am quite sure that McClain made enough money over the years & had enough connections that he and his family would have been just fine, had he chosen not to stab Cherry in the back. Hell, I don’t even like Cherry at all and I was disgusted!

      I personally put my job in jeopardy numerous times in order to maintain integrity and help colleagues etc… and I did not have the money or the connections that McClain has. At the end of the day, for peace of mind, you have to be able to look your face in the mirror & know that you did the right things in life.

      I don’t know this blogger Howard Berger is at all; but I wouldn’t trust him at all if he thinks what mealy mouth McClain did to Cherry was justified. Pretty sad!

  4. Don Cherry is a racist anachronism that got exactly what he deserved. The fact that so many Canadians go full on American white supremist at the mention of his name is completely depressing. Ron did what any decent person was required to do. Denounce the idiot Cherry and his racist bs that he had been getting away with for decades.

    1. Don cherry RACISTS utter NONSENSE , why cause he called out those who refuse to wear poppies in Remembrance of SOLDIERS who gave the ultimate theres LIVES so those who REFUSE to wear poppies can live in a FREE DEMOCRACY and enjoy what was ONCE known as the BEST country in the world, SADLY today Canada’s FREEDOM & DEMOCRACEY are under threat from what was once TITLED LIBERAL DEMOCRATS , today SOCIALIST COMMUNISTS seems DON CHERRY seen what was coming HE WAS RIGHT !

    2. I am not sure what you meant by Don Cherry being a racist. I was an immigrant to this country more than forty years ago, from a communist hellhole in Asia. I watched that episode of Coach’s Corner live when Cherry spoke those words. He may be a bit crude and crass, but I agreed with him then and still do.

    3. I think you’re mistaking Don as a Racist!! I identify him as a patriotic Canadian who was speaking up for our wonderful veterans! Those same veterans who by risking there lives voluntarily allowed his detractors to call him a racist. I invite those who believe him to be racist to visit the military cemeteries in Europe in particular around Vimy ridge Where Don Cherry has a grandfather buried.Don has skin in the game and was not afraid to show respect for those who fought and died for their country. I have nothing but admiration for him standing by his beliefs!! When Don Cherry leaves this world it will be with a full heart knowing that he was a voice for generations of military veterans that when the chips were down knowingly risked there lives to protect our freedoms.One of those and maybe the most important to a democracy being freedom of speech and opinion!! John Beram


    4. Please give us the links to all Don’s racism? Anything I’ve ever heard him say is not racist but maybe said in a way people can’t handle these days. His comments he was fired for weren’t racist and to be honest were truthful words!!!

  5. Look I’m not saying Ron is anything like that. I just know that he has been someone who I have not enjoyed as a broadcaster.
    And I don’t see how that matters. Would I prefer a different host personally? Sure, though no idea if someone else would be better until I saw them work… but then again I don’t really connect with any hosts as the job seems to demand a presentation that rings false for me no matter the subject or environment.
    Do people love Ron in the role? Absolutely and that’s ok. Its ok for people to have different opinions, it truly is despite what current culture says. We are individuals who have different tastes.
    So if I decide to skip intermission content and only watch the game action that doesn’t mean that everyone must do the same.
    Each to their own, don’t hurt each other and live your lives

  6. Ron Maclean did stab Cherry in the back. I don’t care how nice or decent a guy he is, when he got pressured by rogers, with one day to make a decision, between Saturday night and Sunday night’s ‘Hometown Hockey’ broadcast, he chose to go against Cherry. Now, I would say that many of us, or most of us, would have probably done the same thing in that situation, with only less than 24 hours to decide. But perhaps even 24 seconds is enough to make that decision. And he made it. It’s on the record, everybody saw it, can’t be undone. And Ron Maclean is only too human for it. As for Rogers, Cherry calling out ‘you people’ is flimsy grounds for accusing anyone of racism and having him fired. But, then again, Cherry strayed off topic. Remembrance Day is not Hockey, and it was too strong a rant. It’s not what his stage was meant for. He took it too far for too long. We miss Don Cherry and coaches corner, but no one is as big as the game, and the game goes on. When Ron Maclean someday leaves HNIC, we’ll miss him too but we know he wasn’t perfect and the show will go on, and the people that replace him will do as fine a job as he did when he replaced Dave Hodge, who was also canned due to a controversial moment on the show. The circle of life in broadcasting?

    1. I for one do not like Backstabber Ron as of that night. I watch the game but skip the intermission when he is on Rodgers. I watch the intermissions when the game is on TSN.

  7. Gregg Lymer.
    So sad this played out the way it did. Both Ron and Don are both class acts and I myself enjoyed the two of them working together. They were entertaining to say the least. They have done so much for hockey and our communities and the undying support for our veterans. Congrats to both of you for that. We are forever grateful for your commitment towards making our communities a better place. I am not sure what happened in the head office to make Ron Maclean say those words just shortly after Don Cherry,s comments. It didn’t seem right. Don Cherry should of been able to explain how the words came out. We are getting too politically correct in every aspect of life now. The Toronto District School Board made the mistake of listening to an unhappy camper who didn’t ,t like the students putting a Happy Mothers Day sign they made on the outside of the school. They were forced to take it down. So yes, we are not allowed to celebrate Mother’s ,s Day the way we used to.
    But for Don and Ron. You guys are great people and it would be awesome to see you patch things up and work together again. We all miss you guys and you entertainment.

    1. In the 1980s, while going to University,I lived with a University hockey player and football player. I was also coming from a strong football background. All three of us have stayed involved in sports and have tried to be positive and appropriate role models for the players we have coached. Even back in the 80s we watched ‘Uncle Don’, as we called him, and were amazed he got away with the things he said. We often laughed but were shocked with the things he said that we knew were unacceptable, even 40 years ago. Yes, he has a great hockey mind but he is also part of what needs to change in hockey. What happened with Hockey Canada a few years ago with the eight World Junior players is only one example that clearly illustrates the change that is needed. Hockey is an awesome game but change has been needed for far too long.

  8. I think the lesson these commenters would like everyone to take away from this whole thing, is that if you happen to be beside your friend, when he says something, incredibly racist, you stand with him, no matter what, even though you aren’t a racist, and even though your entire career would be over because of it. That is, of course, incredibly stupid, and I can’t believe such a large percentage of the population believes that.

    For anyone who has ever done any type of broadcasting, I can tell you that Ron McLean had someone in his ear counting down the amount of time left in the segment, he was trying to think of a pun to wrap the show up with, and didn’t catch the full extent of what Don Cherry had said. If he had, he would’ve tried to soften it, just like he always has. Instead, he nodded and carried on.

    It has happened to me, I have listened to someone I have interviewed after the fact, and wished that I had added something, or asked a follow up question. But I simply missed it.

    Once he realized what had been said, he needed to distance himself from it, because he unlike Don Cherry, is not a racist. It’s very simple.

  9. I just don’t understand what people have against someone with a social conscious poetically cobbeling together obscure references and puns and turning it into a 40 year lucrative career. Oh wait, I’m thinking of Don MacLean writing “American Pie’, sorry Howard.

  10. Baloney with all this “hiding behind social media” stuff. How do you expect fans to respond, camp out on Ron’s front lawn? Letters to the editor of the Toronto Telegram? Ron loved providing for his family as long as it was my tax dollars paying his wage at the CBC. The problem with guys like Ron is they don’t know when to exit, don’t know when to get off the stage like Johnny Carson did. Carson knew it was time, left and was never seen again. Class.

  11. So well stated Howard! The type of people who tear into Ron , most which stay anonymous, are the same people who can’t take the time to look deep enough into the details they are using to form their opinions. It’s easier to browse some headlines and stand up for Don. You would think Ron’s incredible reputation as a person, not as a hockey personality, would be considered more than it has been. Not in this world where so many choose to ease their own insecurities by bashing fine people like Ron.

    1. I understand both sides, been in lot of countries Canadians don’t like hearing this, but you don’t have free speech. Guys like Don Cherry come from a time you respected military, the traditional family unit – the virtues that generation held is honor, character, integrity. My only problem is everything now becomes a political platform. McLean comes off as a private guy, who yes is a loyal, go with the flow, soft, don’t ruffle yhe powers above man. The guy who works in a Public platform has to do what’s best for him.

  12. Actually, the language used when referencing pedophiles seem to be more filtered these days, protected under cloaks of political correctness and political none-sense. MacLean has it far worse – he has no such backing.

  13. Well written, Howard. I had the pleasure of knowing Ron, and interacting with him, and Don Cherry many times during my times with the NHL (1979-97) as an on-ice official. Both of them always were always kind, cordial, and easy to be with. Ron certainly is one of the most classy individuals it has been my pleasure to know. All of those who take “cheap shots” at him are nothing but gutless cowards who hide behind the social media veil of secrecy ,when it comes to their identity. Good for Ron on staying with it. Our game is the winner when people like Ron are connected with it, and off the ice There are many, believe me. Good luck to Ron, and his family. Most right minded people, will wish him well. Best always, Howard. Ron Asselstine.

    1. Apparently your not a Canadian hockey fan. RRON’S Treasoness action against “Grapes” is right up there with Brutus Assasainating Ceasar.

  14. You’ve totally lost the plot on this one. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a world war against woke political correctness.

    Freedom is at stake.

      1. You guys with media connections love defending the left because you can not exist without selling out to woke agenda. Regular people have had enough with media trying to normalize the gradual loss of rights and freedoms in Canada and we wont be molded in this new normal that your kind wants to sell.
        Also it says a lot that you have to attack the grammar when you don`t have a proper response to Don`s point. And second of all, check your sources before posting misinformation.

    1. My only issue with Ron is he should stick to hockey and stop talking about politics when working on HNC

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